The Downfall of Lady Macbeth
Macbeth is a play full of magic, mystery, and murder. The variety of
plots, as well as the interesting characters, force the reader to pay full
attention at all times. Unfortunately, one of these characters is a victim of
her own imagination. Although Lady Macbeth adds much positive flavour to the
play, her character is revealed through her aggressive attitude with her husband,
her inhumane disregard for life, and her guilty conscience.
Lady Macbeth is very assertive when dealing with her husband’s
hesitations about murdering Duncan:
“O never shall sun that morrow see!
Your face… is as a book where men
May read strange matters. To beguile the time,
Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye,
Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower
But be the serpent under’t.”
This urging causes Macbeth to possess black and deep desires’, which lead him
to murder the king. She takes it upon herself to pressure him and therefore,
her bold character is revealed. Macbeth’s intentions would have been less
serious if his wife was not more anxious than he was. She, more than her
husband, is to blame for the death of King Duncan, due to her relentless pursuit
of power and authority.
Lady Macbeth is a heartless fiend with an savage disregard for life.
This is evident in the manner in which she downplays the murder of Duncan to her
“A little water clears us of this deed;
How easy is it, then! Your constancy
Hath left you unattended…
Get on your night-gown, lest occasion call us,
And show us to be watchers. Be not lost
So poorly in your thoughts.”
She tries to make Macbeth believe that committing the murder was not a vicious
deed and that washing their hands will wash away all the guilt. Macbeth
exclaims that “all Neptune’s ocean” will not wash the blood from his hands.
Lady Macbeth appears at this point to be a ruthless killer working on behalf of
the prince of darkness, which solidifies her character and gives the audience
new insights to her psychological state.
The audience is lead to believe that Lady Macbeth will never feel any
guilt concerning the murder, but her guilty conscience is displayed near the end
of the play. She begins to sleepwalk and relive the murder in her mind:
“Out, damned spot! out, I say! One; two; why, then
tis time to do’t. Hell is murky! Fie, my lord–fie!
a soldier, and afeard?”
Lady Macbeth’s character seems somewhat stable until this scene and is it now
that we learn that she is mentally ill. The doctor and the Gentlewoman witness
her exploits and they are the first people to discover that the murder of King
Duncan was committed by Macbeth with the help of his wife. The guilt of the
murder has become unbearable for her, to the point of taking her own life “by
self and violent hands”. The characteristics of her personality become obvious
with her death, leaving the audience free to form various opinions about her.
During the course of the play, we see the disintegration of Lady
Macbeth’s solid character, through her actions with her husband, her own
opinions of first-degree murder, and finally watching her try to cope with
obvious guilt. Her downfall is complete when she kills herself, appearing to be
a case of severe mental anguish. Her tragedy is now one that is shared around
the world by millions of Shakespeare’s faithful followers.